Here’s the latest major stories out of the General Assembly

Forward Kentucky
Forward Kentucky

It’s Friday afternoon, and the leges have cleared out of Frankfort after their last convening of the week. But, the impact of their bills, good or bad, will be around for a while. Here’s a rundown of some of the more impactful bills of the week.

Governor vetoes HB 4, which cut unemployment benefits

HB 4, the annual Repub attempt to cut unemployment, was vetoed today by Governor Beshear. Critics, including some Republican legislators from rural counties, noted that it cut benefits based on the statewide unemployment rate, no matter what the rate was in a given county or region. (So if Louisville and Lexington are having a good year, people in Pikeville and Paducah get screwed.)

Beshear explained why he vetoed the bill in two tweets:

Unlike other Repub-led bills, this one passed on a fairly narrow margin, with more than a dozen rural Republicans voting with the Dems. It will be interesting to see if the veto actually gets overridden.

House passes attack on safety net 71-26

HB 7, which supposedly “tightens up” rules around safety net benefits, passed the house and heads to the Senate. According to the AP report on the debate and the bill:

Critics said the new rules would cause hardships for people who need the benefits. Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian criticized the bill as “trying to punish people for being poor.”

“The bill would add new rules for such benefits as food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance for the poor, while standards for food stamp eligibility would be tightened. In some cases, “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients would be required to participate in 80 hours per month of “community engagement” activities, such as jobs or volunteering.

State Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander told the committee on Thursday that the agency would need to hire hundreds of additional workers to oversee the new rules. The cabinet’s current workforce is already “stretched to the limit," he said.

Legislature bans trans girls from sports

SB 83, the ban on trans athletes (but only for one gender), passed both chambers this week. Never mind that the persons pushing the bill could not give one example of a trans girl playing on a girls’ sports team. And, just for good measure and to increase the hate, the bill includes college sports as well.

Once again, medical MJ passes House

HB 136, Rep. Jason Nemes’s bill on medical marijuana, passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 59-34. It has passed the House before, but usually gets stuck in the Senate. Supposedly, the bill has more support this time, but that remains to be seen.

Two of five wagering bills pass House on Friday

A package of five bills dealing with legalized gambling dropped in the House earlier this week, and two of them passed on Friday.

The first, HB 606, would legalize betting on sports. Joe Sonka noted that “Democratic members saying this is the issue that most constituents have urged them to support, saying they overwhelmingly support legalizing sports betting.”

The bill passed 58-30, with the Repub side of the aisle almost evenly split between Yes and No votes.

The second bill to pass was HB 608, which deals with so-called “gray machines,” which are basically electronic slot machines. They have proliferated across the state, going from a few machines some years ago to hundreds now, mostly in convenience stores and bars. But, unlike “historical horse racing” machines, the gray machines are neither regulated nor taxed.

The debate basically came down to whether to outlaw all such machines, including HHR, or regulate and tax the gray machines. The bill passed 50-31, with the “ban them all” group voting No.

And finally ...

  • The bill setting up a child-care matching assistance fun, HB 499, passed 80-5 ... but without any funding for it.
  • And according to rumor, HB 9, the bill funding charter schools, was one vote short of passing in committee, so it was pulled. 👍


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The editorial board of Forward Kentucky. Articles under this author name have been written, edited, and approved by a number of the contributors on this site, as well as the publisher.